A number of artists are making their major label debuts in 2013. These rebirths will be the most exciting musical moments to occur this year.
Two of the strongest albums that dropped last year were major label debuts (see my review of the Top Albums of 2012). Those albums introduced the world to new sounds, new voices, and new attitudes towards music making in a way that we haven’t seen in a while. But the whole crop of major label debuts was a mixed bag: rappers Big K.R.I.T and Curren$y failed, Frank Ocean succeeded, Kendrick Lamar succeeded, Alabama Shakes succeeded, rap collective Slaughterhouse failed hard.
Making the jump from the underground into the mainstream is a difficult transition. There are different expectations, different work environments, a new persona often has to be molded.
One of the most interesting happenings in music culture is seeing how these artists react to success and/or failure. Some artists succeed, others retreat back to the EP and mix tape game, others try again determined. We'll see how 2013’s new artists do.Here are a few albums to look forward to this year.
1. A$AP Rocky - Long. Live. A$AP
It has been foretold that the Harlem Pretty Boy will be the new guiding voice in hip hop. He is not the strongest lyricist, but he has a very good sense of sound and style. His music is visceral and sensual. It’s luxurious, dark, trippy and polished. A$AP Rocky is poised to take the crown. “Goldie” was the best rap single to drop last year, and the video for the title track “Long Live A$AP” was intriguing and intriguing as well.
His highly-anticipated major label debut drops in two weeks, January 15.
2. Azealia Banks - Broke With Expensive Taste
Azealia Banks is riding a wave of magazine praise and successful mix tapes, as she prepares to drop her major label debut, Broke With Expensive Taste, February 12. We have no hints as to what the album will sound like, because the first single had sample clearance issues and was removed from the album. We don’t know whether she will be rapping or singing. Banks said in a recent interview that rapping is “tacky” and “unladylike” and that one day she knows she’ll get tired of it. Yet, her snide, double-time, “I’m a rude bitch” raps on songs like “Liquorice” and "212" are what launched her into the spotlight in the first place. That, her cutting edge stylish dress, and her infectious dance beats. Azealia Banks will most likely be rapping on Broke With Expensive Taste, and the album will most likely bang.
3. Solange Knowles
Beyoncé’s little sis, Solange, will be dropping her third studio album this year. She released an EP last November entitled True that she said was be a preview to the sound of her upcoming studio album. The songs on the True were catchy and the effort was critically acclaimed. The single “Losing You” was a somber 80’s Madonna ballad sung over over a playful and dancy afrobeat — an interesting mix of styles. Solange’s upcoming studio full-length has no title as of yet, but it in likelihood be worth a worth a few listens.
4. Snoop Lion - Reincarnated / Major Lazer
Snoop Dogg made every periodical headline when he announced the “spiritual rebirth” he’d had while studying rastafarianism in Jamaica. The rapper was rechristened Snoop Lion by a rastafari priest, and he announced a documentary/album Reincarnated release for early 2013. Snoop Lion will not rap on Reincarnated. The music will be all dub and Major Lazer-electro reggae. Diplo/Major Lazer handled nearly all the production on the album. The singles are not incredible, but they are interesting. “Here Comes The King” is 8-bit NES reggae. There is no release date for Reincarnated yet.
Diplo will also be coming out with his own Major Lazer album in February, Free The Universe. The lead single, entitled “Get Free,” is uplifting and beautiful and features Amber Coffman of The Dirty Projectors.
Both albums will undoubtedly be entertaining releases.
5. Earl Sweatshirt - Doris
Earl Sweatshirt’s debut has been a long time coming. The boy turned heads with his slow, clever, infinitely internally-rhyming flows on his first mix tape, Earl, which came out in 2010. Those 10 tracks essentially ignited the wildfire fascination with Odd Future. However, before he could revel in any of the group’s success, 16-year-old Sweatshirt had to turn away from music. He spent nearly two years at a school for at-risk boys in Samoa, while his Odd Future brothers toured the world. Earl is back now and has released the first single, “Chum,” that will appear on an upcoming album, Doris. The boy can still rap. He hasn’t lost a thing. If anything, he’s matured and his talents have grown. He no longer raps about rape and mindless hooligan violence. Sweatshirt’s unique flow has won him a lot of admirers, including Pharrell and The Neptunes, Flying Lotus, Frank Ocean, and The Alchemist. They’ll be working with him on his album. We’ll see if the music was worth the wait.